We can’t continue this way.
“While it is always great to think about how to let-go of toxic productivity and perfectionism, this is a band-aid solution to [a] broad and systemic problem. This approach feels like just another “life-hack” on my way to my best productivity. What are we going to do to address the systemic failures of our capitalistic, white-supremacist society that create toxic productivity in the first place? I know it’s bigger than one session at this conference can take on, but we can’t continue this way.”
This was a review of my session at the Montana Nonprofit Association conference. This person reflects the conflict I often feel in my work. Frankly, I don’t want to help you be more productive. I think our society, our world, is more productive than it should be.
And yet, here I am, falling right into the same trap as many I see – keeping the status quo alive and well. Providing tools and hacks to help you navigate the system as it is. Not the system as it could be. Not what we could imagine it to be.
What it could be…
In 2019, a survey of 160 years of demographic information from the United State showed that wealth is a strong indicator of someone pursuing an artistic career.
“The logic behind this math isn’t hard to comprehend: Money’s Kristen Bahler puts it bluntly, ‘Devoting yourself to the life of a ‘starving artist’ is a lot less risky if your family has enough money to make sure you don’t actually starve.’”
Which makes sense. If you have the financial backing or safety net, you can take more risks with your career.
But let me put it another way:
You’re more likely to explore creative endeavors if you don’t need to produce.
Imagine what that would be like if everyone had the same privilege.
If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do? If you didn’t need to worry about paying rent, how would you spend your time? What would you fill your day with if all your needs were met?
I would write. I would audition for a community theater production. Maybe I would take up oil painting. Most likely, I’d embrace my love of photography.
Would any of the things you dream of doing have anything to do with what our society tells us is productive? Valuable? Worth pursuing?
Without doing a survey, I would suspect that most of us desire to do things that have very little to do with capitalistic production. Yet, how many of us have the privilege to pursue those things?
More importantly, why do we have to be privileged to do the things that we want to do?
I’m not an expert on capitalism. I’m not going to pretend I am. But, in my journey over the last few years, I’ve come to mistrust our current capitalistic system. Mistrust is probably too passive of a word, but it’s what I’m comfortable writing for now.
In a capitalistic society, toxic productivity ties our value to what we produce. But really, it’s productivity that does that. Productivity in and of itself is toxic. Capitalism doesn’t allow it to be anything else.
And it’s why we can’t continue this way.
Giving a presentation about toxic productivity was a great opportunity for me. I learned so much in doing it. Was it perfect? Of course not. Did it help some people? Yes, I think it did.
Was this person above correct that it’s not enough? That we can’t continue this way?
I don’t have an answer for the person. I don’t know where to begin other than asking myself and the people around me – what would our world look like if it could be different? What would you want it to look like? What do you want to lift up? Are there things you want to squash and bury forever?
For years, I’ve been someone who believes that if you want to change something, you have to work from within to change it. I didn’t agree with people trying to dismantle something from the outside. It always felt like screaming into the void to me.
Maybe I’m changing my mind. Maybe I’m not. What I do know is that I want to keep wrestling with these questions. I want to keep having conversations about what our world could look like and what we can do to change it.
Because this person is right – we can’t continue this way. And we have to start somewhere to change it.
Co-Founder & CEO
Known for organizing the dirty dishes before cleaning them, Alyson is learning how to do less, better and helping others do the same. She loves exploring beautiful lands near and far, trying new recipes, aspiring to be the next Star Baker, growing her garden, and avoiding board games at all cost.